If you spend a lot of time in the outdoors doing high risk activities you get used to having to make split second decisions. The backcountry is accessed only by making the right choices in a nonstop parade of options: Should I go left or right? Proceed or hold? Go big or go home? Is it time to push for the summit or time to go down and have a beer? Hint: beer is always correct.

This habit of quick decision making tends to leach over into one’s non-outdoors life, as I discovered last night when I attempted to have an uneventful night on the town with my best gay. I had had quite a rough-ish travel week, with many delays and unplanned stopovers, and had spent two days of my traveling teaching incident management concepts to a big crowd of strangers. Because of this two-day blitz of standing in front of people and talking for eight hours at a time, I was quite tired of my own voice so was very much looking forward to spending time with my friend, who can be counted on to fill the conversation void and not make me talk much.

Now, my friend is not really too much of an outdoorsman so when we get together it’s usually quite genteel and involves stopovers at establishments of a more upscale nature. This night was no exception, as we opted for a nice dinner at a local wine bar and then a few blocks’ stroll to an Italian place for our chosen desserts. This isn’t the kind of evening that I usually get when out on a hetero date, by the way. For one thing, I didn’t hear the words “shred” or “gnar” or even “sick” one time the entire night. I did not have to talk about my preferences for mountain bike drivetrains and wasn’t asked for my opinion about ski bindings or waterproof breathable layers at all. Every now and then I really appreciate a night like this, though I did have to tell my friend that his skinny jeans made his ass look really cute. Other than obligatory flattery, it’s quite relaxing to go out with someone I’m not trying to impress or anything (because THAT always goes so well, you know) and without the (self-inflicted) pressure of going out on an actual date. I could feel the stress of the week draining away.

So what happened at the Italian place was really unexpected. I hadn’t planned on needing quick reflexes or making split second decisions. But, about halfway through my beer and while watching my friend polish off my amaretto chocolate mousse, I made the fateful decision to go freshen up in the ladies’ room.

This particular joint has a powder room that is always worth a visit. It’s quite nice in there, with nice decorations, completely private stalls, and even heated toilet seats. It’s lucky for me that the place is so swank, or else I wouldn’t have been compelled, after availing myself of the facilities, to briefly look behind me to admire the toilet seat-heating device as I simultaneously reached for the flush handle.

A movement in the toilet bowl caught my eye and I stared aghast at my driver’s license and credit card, freed from the denim prison of my back pocket and drifting slowly down through the now-saffron fluid in the bowl. My license was twisting aimlessly amongst the fronds of toilet paper, but the credit card must have caught a current or something and was really making a break for it, diving down to the farthest reaches of the bowl and threatening to shoot out of sight.

No time to think, just react. Amidst thoughts of “ew” and “I’m going to feel really bad using this card to pay the bill after this” and “at least it’s only my own pee,” I plunged my hand into the bowl and scooped up my wayward cards, somehow managing to pull off this feat without getting my sleeve wet as well. Fervently thanking my lucky stars that I’d not only recovered my cards but, given the private stalls in the glammed-up bathroom, no one had witnessed that embarrassing ordeal, I opened the door to wash off the cards in the sink, only to find that a line had formed in the few moments I’d been in the loo.

There was just nothing for it. I nonchalantly rinsed my cards in the sink and scrubbed them with soap from the fancy foaming dispenser as the crowd looked on (can’t really blame them, as there’s not much to do while you’re waiting for a toilet stall). “I dropped them in the toilet,” I finally said over my shoulder, as a few heads turned and whispered words exchanged amongst the friends in line who, evidently, really do actually go to the bathroom together. “At least you’re using soap,” said a pragmatic mother whose two kids were waiting behind me for me to finish with the sink.

Returning to my table with my cards air-drying in my hands, I told my friend of my misfortune and endured the expected hilarity. “What’s the matter with you?” he said between gasps for air. “Don’t you have a PURSE?”

“Have we met?” I snapped back. I mean really. Has anyone ever seen me carrying a purse? What do people carry in those things, anyway? Some of them are just huge, and evidently full of stuff from the way they clunk onto tables when set down. At times like these, I feel as if I’ve missed out on some of the fundamental tenets of being an American woman. I’m supposed to have a big bag and carry stuff around, but because I’ve not been instructed on what to carry and why, it’s all just a mystery to me. Why don’t I understand purses? Well, that’s easy; I was raised on a remote Alaskan island (by wolves, evidently) and no one ever taught me about purses and handbags and what to put in them and why one wouldn’t just use one’s pockets. What is the difference between a purse and a handbag anyway? More importantly, which is a bigger pain in the ass, scooping one’s cards out of the toilet one time in one’s life (so far) or lugging around a bag full of pointless junk every day? I resolved to keep my cards in my front pocket so I wouldn’t have to do either.

I watched the waitress run my card and thought to myself “Now THAT is why I don’t like it when they put fruit in my beer.” I actually felt quite smug about this; after years of making a fuss about getting my beer without fruit in it, there in front of me was unassailable proof that I had been right all along. Wait staff don’t have time to wash their hands much, and their hands are on credit cards and money all night and if there’s one thing we now know, it’s that you really don’t want to eat food touched by people who have touched other people’s credit cards.

You just never know where those things have been.